Top US senators blame Saudi prince for Khashoggi death

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President Donald Trump has equivocated over who is to blame for the killing, frustrating senators who are now looking for ways to punish the longtime Middle East ally. Senators have moved to punish Saudi Arabia by advancing legislation to curtail USA backing for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. "You have to balance all that was as we move forward".

Last week's vote set up debate on Senate passage of the Yemen resolution, which could happen next week.

Last week, Defense Secretary James Mattis said "we have no smoking gun that the crown prince was involved". She was notably absent from last week's Senate briefing, an omission seen by many lawmakers as an attempt by the Trump administration to deprive them of the spy agency's narrative of the events as they weighed opening debate on a resolution to end United States support for the Saudi coalition's war in Yemen. Human rights groups say the war is wreaking havoc on the country and subjecting civilians to indiscriminate bombing.

Before her meeting with the senators, Haspel, along with former Central Intelligence Agency directors including George Tenet and John Brennan, stopped by the Capitol Rotunda to pay her respects to former President George Bush, who is lying in state at the Capitol through Wednesday morning.

Saudi authorities have vehemently denied the crown prince was involved. "I think he is complicit in the murder of Khashoggi in the highest possible level", said Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican.

Haspel's absence at a closed-door briefing on Saudi Arabia last week rankled key lawmakers.

"If MBS were in front of a jury he'd be convicted in less than 30 minutes".

"The views that I had before have only solidified", said Sen.

"The very definition of a "deep state" is when the intelligence communities withhold information from Congress", he said.

Sen. Bob Corker says a jury would find the Saudi crown prince 'in about 30 minutes.'
Sen. Bob Corker says a jury would find the Saudi crown prince 'in about 30 minutes.'

Khashoggi was killed two months ago.

Mr Khashoggi, a U.S. resident who wrote for the Washington Post, had been a fierce critic of the crown prince before his death. He was killed in what US officials have described as an elaborate plot as he visited the consulate for marriage paperwork. He was killed in what US officials have described as an elaborate plot as he visited the consulate for marriage paperwork. President Donald Trump has said stopping the sales would only help nations such as China and Russian Federation. "Maybe he did and maybe he didn't!".

Mr Menendez has previously called for a strong U.S. reaction to Mr Khashoggi's death and supports legislation to end all USA support for the Saudi coalition embroiled in the Yemen war. The senator had previously said he would refuse to take a position on the question before hearing Haspel's testimony on the spy agency's findings, which differ from the positions voiced by the Trump administration.

In a statement attempting to clarify his comments later in the day, Stewart said: "We can not brush aside the murder of any journalist, and I have always said that those who are responsible for the murder of Mr. Khashoggi should be held responsible". In a column for the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, Graham wrote that the killing and other moves by the Saudi regime showed "astounding arrogance entitlement" and disregard for global norms. "Of course it does, and yet we have to have a relationship with these individuals- or with these countries". "After all, someone's got to do it".

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, said the briefing "reinforced the need for a strong response to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi".

Senator Corker said it would be "difficult" to come up with legislation that could pass the Senate. He said finding a compromise will be hard because some lawmakers don't want to tie Yemen to the Khashoggi killing.

There were also complains from some senators, wo were not allowed into the briefing. Graham has also pushed for the Magnitsky Act sanctions issued against the 15 assassins to be extended to the crown prince as well.

Saudi Arabia has acknowledged the murder, yet left many questions unanswered.

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